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 Post subject: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 19:36 pm 
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Why was the British high command in Malaya and Singapore so incompetent?

At the moment im reading a book called ''Out in the Midday Sun'' which is about the fighting in Malaya and Singapore and some of the actions by the British begger belief.
Even when there men were being pushed back through Malaya no defencives were prepared in Singapore till the last minute, never shelling Yamashita's HQ because of its ''obvious'' location, throwing thousands of men into a lost fight etc etc etc.

What do other people think of the actions of men like Percival?

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 17:28 pm 
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Have you read Singapore burning by Colin Smith? Excellent book about Malaya/Singapore.

I think the reason no defences were built on the island was because they had mostly inexperienced troops, if they built a defensive line behind them, they would withdraw immediately to it.

The thing that suprised me about the campaign was the inept Australian leadership, critically that of Brigadier Harold Taylor CO of the 22nd Australian Brigade, defending the north west corner of Singapore island. His order to his troops that if they felt they were close to being overrun then they should fall back towards their company/battalion HQs. This virtually gave his men his permission to fall back when they felt like it. Many did and the Brigade disintegrated into a rabble.

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PostPosted: Mon Dec 31, 2007 17:56 pm 
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karltrowitz wrote:
Have you read Singapore burning by Colin Smith? Excellent book about Malaya/Singapore.

I think the reason no defences were built on the island was because they had mostly inexperienced troops, if they built a defensive line behind them, they would withdraw immediately to it.

The thing that suprised me about the campaign was the inept Australian leadership, critically that of Brigadier Harold Taylor CO of the 22nd Australian Brigade, defending the north west corner of Singapore island. His order to his troops that if they felt they were close to being overrun then they should fall back towards their company/battalion HQs. This virtually gave his men his permission to fall back when they felt like it. Many did and the Brigade disintegrated into a rabble.


No i haven't read that one, must admit the Mlaya/Singapore campaign has never been one of my main interests until recently.

I would have thought building some defences your men could fall abck was better than doing nothing and then having nothing for your men to defend

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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Tue May 27, 2008 17:04 pm 
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Official local thinking was that building defences on the island would be defeatist and demoralise the locals.
By the time High Command realised they really needed defences, the line was spread so thin that it was impossible in the time to defend properly against the fast moving Japanese attack.
The jungle throughout Malaya was of course impenetrable to all except apparently the Japanese and the Scots, so British troops were not Jungle trained at all.
Singapore HQ and the chain of command also refused to believe until it was too late that the Japanese had tanks and so refused permission for AT and heavy artillery to be moved from its pre invasion prepared positions which the Japanese then simply went round having been openly gathering intel since 1936 (according to Special Branch) and having isolated them, mopped up afterwards.
I can reccommend Singapore Burning as being one of the best complete pictures of the campaign I have read.
Despite some brilliant actions, Once the Singapore reservoirs were lost (there is still no fresh water supply in Singapore) it was only a matter of time before defeat and the Civilian administration (who outranked Percival) decided that surrender was the only option and the rest of the military staff conceded as many had been beaten all the way back from the Thai border which was supposed to be the starting point of the defence.
Some of the freshly landed Cambs Regt were ordered to surrender without having actually fired a shot in anger much to their disgust.
High ranking Ineptitude was not only confined to the Brits, the Aussies had some belters in charge as well. All of this compounded by no RAF and Army co-operation in the region and Churchill with his eyes firmly on the threat in Europe and not the Far East.

Finally the Japanese bluffed their way through the negotiations and Gen Yamashita who actually did not have enough men and ammunition to defeat the Singapore garrison as they had moved too fast for their supply chain to catch up was surprised to get everything he asked for wihtout a fight.
Singapore Govt uses the campaign even now as the reason why the island must look after its own defence and not rely on outside help.


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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Wed Jul 07, 2010 16:46 pm 
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Just got back from a week in Borneo near Kuching... today loads of roads, but each day we were out in the National Park, or countryside somewhere... did some hiking on "tourist paths" which made it tolerably easy to get from A to B, although with constant danger of trip hazards, mud-slides, falling trees/branches and sudden floods... and then also did some trips out off the regular track along "villager's paths" with "bridges" across deep ravines made from bamboo branches simply laid side by side to form a very bendy, creaky way across. In places the path disolved completely leaving one to guess the right way forwards and on more than one occasion, the only way forwards was to crawl and hack our way through, the jungle becoming suddenly impenetrable, even though we were supposedly on a path which was regularly used.

Whilst never more than 10km from the nearest civilisation, one wrong foot on a path and it could be a slipperly slide through the vegetation to the bottom of a gully, as was the case for one woman in my party... the only way out to climb down the gully hoping to find a slope to climb back up. Added to her misfortune (she got out ok), two others had the ground give way, resulting with falls and broken limbs. So, without assistance from the Malay population and lacking modern GPS, Mapping and navigational equipment, there is no doubt that without correct training to fight and survive in such conditions, the untrained British Tommy with inexperienced officers would have found the task of defending against the Japs to be - as it proved - an impossible task... after all, they werent just fighting the Japs, they had to fight the Jungle as well.

I've just started reading about the Australian M and Z, and Coastwatching Units in Borneo... a good and interesting read based on interviews with surviving veterans.

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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 15:14 pm 
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Out-moded tactics, racial pre-conceptions, poor leadership, not one of the British Empire's finest moments.
The draft before my father went to Singapore, his was sent to India, lucky.

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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 16:54 pm 
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Tanaka wrote:
Why was the British high command in Malaya and Singapore so incompetent?

At the moment im reading a book called ''Out in the Midday Sun'' which is about the fighting in Malaya and Singapore and some of the actions by the British begger belief.
Even when there men were being pushed back through Malaya no defencives were prepared in Singapore till the last minute, never shelling Yamashita's HQ because of its ''obvious'' location, throwing thousands of men into a lost fight etc etc etc.

What do other people think of the actions of men like Percival?



for background into percival look at his time in the essex regiment in ireland? it does suggest he was a bit ruthless.

although not his fan you do him a diservice. singapore was a white elephant - a naval base which had no ships due to the navy being busy fighting a war on the other side of the world. they rushed a few round because of worries about indochina and thailand.

a lot of the british army on the penisular was preparing to invade thailand not to defend malaya? no tanks, no anti tank guns, singapore was a backwater, the war was elsewhere.

so wrong side of the world, not likely to get reinforced, out moded or outdated aircraft? we're not talking about elite british army units but troops in a garrison posting sent to a place with no fighting when all troops would have been at a premium? by the time they got back to defending singapore preventing civilian casualties was a worry, after all once the british empire had kicked the nips butts they would be back. (thats an important point, the british empire seems to have been in denial that defeat was ever a long term option, ) compare to defence of hongkong, bataan, wake all also futile?

mistakes? perhaps there was a few but was the outcome going to be different? perhaps they could have avoided sending troopships into surrender in the last days and used them in indonesia instead?

it didn't really matter how good a commander he was

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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 17:20 pm 
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well not sure i'll go along with all that.

The Allies made a shed load of mistakes, but if you take just the main ones, things like, sticking with the racial preconceptions that the Japanese were monkies, even after they had met them in Battle and lost, not moving AT guns to new positions to take out the basic tanks the Japanese had, failing to do any real defense work on the land side of the island until the japanese were at the door, totally ballsing up the destruction of the casway, outdated defense tactics, not shelling Yamashitas HQ because it was too obvious a target? and then surrendering a much larger force to an enemy that was just about to turn around and leave because it was totally out of supplies.

Now if just one of those mistakes hadn't happaned the defence could of been alot different

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 Post subject: Re: Malaya and Singapore
PostPosted: Tue May 10, 2011 18:02 pm 
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personal opinion ....... it was all going to end up like bataan, even if the british had had several major victories.

elsewhere previously - the royal navy was embarassed by 3 german battlecruisers sailing up the channel
it wasn't going that well in north africa to put it mildly - at least we had relieved torbruk. but that was due to it getting first dibs on manpower?
in december 1941 the british empire was on its last legs and had been for a while - which might have been why the japanese thought it was a good time to join the war.


with no significant allied naval forces was yamashita going to get reinforced with trained men before percival?

a naval base with no ships? the plan had been for a major naval force to be sent in time of war. we had no major force to send after the PoW and repulse (repulse was desperate for a refit and the PoW spent time in dry dock immediately on arrival, PoW was the only AA defence of the city in the air raids on 8th December whilst sitting in dry dock) the aircraft carrier never got sent cos it got broke ... so the sinking of the PoW and repulse was almost guarenteed and predicted by Dudley Pound but the alternative would have been to send nothing? The Royal navy doesn't leave the pongos on their own, they'd just proved that off of crete and left a few ships behind there. So Force Z was a big bluff and the japanese knew it. we had nothing else to send because everything else was busy in the atlantic or mediterean or broken/sunk.


percival himself had written the paper on the defence of singapore in the mid 1930s prior to the building of the fortress (which had guns pointing both ways contrary to popular belief) percival was sent as a local expert. perhaps he knew there was little point? the defence of malaya depended on a navy that would never arrive and help from the phillipines which were barely holding on themselves.

it didn't help that the local head of the navy was living in the past and local head of airforce fell asleep in meetings though. yes lots of mistakes but would it have made a difference? or that the plan to defend malaya consisted of invading thailand first but politically that would have been a bad idea. after all the thai's had just kicked the vichy french's butts.

given that percival's command had more casualties after their surrender than before due to nature of their captivity, it could suggest that the surrender if it had been against a civilised enemy would have saved his troops lives. percival himself fought long and hard representing exPOWs up to his death with some sucess.

so given the dire straights that the empire as a whole was, and given that there were other more important places to send resources. which mistake (on the peninsular of malaya or island of singapore rather than politically elsewhere) if it had been put right would have made a difference in the long run?

now i didn't think this morning i would be defending the leader of the essex torture squad.

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